Lessons Learned: The Kentucky Collection

Lessons Learned: The Kentucky Collection

On Monday I purchased a nice specialized collection of 20 Liberty Head quarter eagles from an individual in Kentucky. As of Thursday the entire collection had been sold...let's chat about why.

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Eight Tips on Buying United States Gold Coins

As a specialist in the area of United States gold coins, I often find myself giving "tips" to buyers. Some of these seem pretty obvious to me while others are kind of clever and maybe not so obvious. Here are some of these tips along with a bot of pertinent commentary. 1. If you are a gold coin specialist who is worried about potential hoard coins hurting the value of pieces in your collection, there are a few things you can do as a safeguard. First, stick with coins struck prior to 1890. Most of the gold coins expatriated from overseas appear to be dated from 1890 onwards. Coins struck earlier, especially those before 1878, seem a lot "safer." Second, limit your exposure by not buying very high grade coins. The collectors who owned high grade 1857-S double eagles before the S.S. Central America was discovered got killed afterwards. But if you owned a nice AU example, your downside was limited. Third, you could stick with lower denomination coins. Hoards of gold dollars, quarter eagles and half eagles seem less frequent and dramatic than those with eagles and double eagles. But to those collectors who live in fear of hoards, I'd tell them to get over this and just buy what appeals to you.

2. By the grade before the big price jump. What I mean by this, if you have a choice between an MS64 double eagle priced at $3,500 and an MS65 priced at $25,000 I would always buy the lower priced example, especially if the population is high in the lower grades. As an example, if there are seventy five examples of the $3,500 MS64 with just five better doesn't it seem like that at least a few of the high end 64's could gradeflate to MS65?

3. Nearly every collector who works on a series builds it the wrong way. It seems to me that all collections should have the keys be the best coins in the series while the common dates should be nice but not overblown. Instead, most collections skimp on the keys but overdo it on the commons. Let me give you an example. If you are working on a set of Dahlonega quarter eagles the coins you should "overdo" are the legitimate rarities like the 1854-D, 1855-D and 1856-D. I would stretch on all three and buy the nicest ones I could find. On the other hand, I would be content to purchase nice, original AU55 or AU58 examples of the common dates like the 1843-D, 1844-D and 1847-D and sink maybe $5,000 per coin into these three issues.

4. Always use a 5x glass when you are making a buying decision. Just recently, I bought a Charlotte half eagle at a coin show. It was in an old green label PCGS holder and it looked great to the naked eye. I made an accepted offer and never used a glass to look at it. When I got home and was ready to break the coin out to regrade it I put a glass on the obverse and noticed a deep, detracting scratch that had naturally blended into the surfaces. Yes, you may have great vision and you may be a really macho guy but use a glass whenever possible.

5. Buy coins with good eye appeal. Unless we are talking about an amazingly rare issue like an 1854-S quarter eagle, there is no reason to buy an ugly coin. And I would include damaged coins when I am talking about coins that lack eye appeal. As time goes by, I am noticing that fewer and fewer 18th and 19th century United States gold coins have good eye appeal. By "eye appeal" I mean a coin that is pretty; one that makes you stop in your tracks, look at it carefully and maybe even take a deep sigh. I can pretty much assure you that when you go to sell your coins, the ones with good to great eye appeal are going to be the ones that cause the greatest commotion.

6. First impressions are usually correct. If you get a coin shipped to you by a dealer and your first reaction is "yuck" or "um...I don't really like that" you should pass. Nearly every major mistake that I have ever made as a buyer has been convincing myself that I "liked" a coin when, in fact, I really did not.

7. Price buyers wind up with mediocre collections. Really nice coins with good eye appeal are really hard to buy right now for a number of reasons. If you are a buyer whose is driven by price alone I'm guessing you either buy modern coins or you haven't had much luck lately buying. And if you are a cheap buyer who puts in low bids at auction, I'm guessing the only coins you are buying are the dark, ugly, low-end pieces that those of us who like nice coins wouldn't buy no matter how cheap they are. You aren't going to have fun when you go to sell your coins. But don't take it from me; as an experiment post a few of your "good deals" on a message board to try to sell them to the local dealer....

8. If you are buying coins as an investment and expect to turn them over quickly to make a profit, there are a few things you should know. Rare coins have a fairly sizable entry/exit fee. If you are buying from a typical retailer, you are probably paying at least a 15-20% markup. And when you go to sell your coins, whether it be to a dealer or through auction, you are probably paying in the area of 10-20%. So even if you are buying and selling through good sources, you are talking about values having to go up 25-40% just to break even. That's why I don't personally tout coins as an investment and when someone does ask me about coins in this regard, I stress that they really need to be held at least a full market cycle (or five to eight+ years).

Like these buying tips? Want to read another blog with more tips? Leave a comment at the end of this blog or drop me an email at dwn@ont.com